Almost all Afghan refugees take advantage of free COVID-19 shots at Fort McCoy

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FORT MCCOY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Almost all of the Afghan refugees seeking shelter at Fort McCoy have been vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Wisconsin's Democratic congressional delegation who visited the facility and were briefed by officials Tuesday, Sept. 7.

Congressman Mark Pocan (WI-02) said he was told by officials all but one refugee received the COVID-19 vaccine.

"They actually told us one person refused a COVID shot. I wish we had anything like that in our country right now," Pocan said.

Other Democrats who toured the military base, including Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Rep. Ron Kind (D-03), also confirmed there have been a "couple" of positive COVID-19 infections among refugees.

There was also one person who tested positive for measles, Kind said.

"They had to quarantine and the immediate people around them, but so far all we know is just one measles case and they're being monitored very closely," said Kind.

Democrats also dismissed concerns raised by Republican lawmakers about the vetting process of refugees.

"Any insinuations by my Republican colleagues that refugees are unvetted are false," Baldwin said. "We should not be distracted by the bad faith claims and instead need to focus our energy on ensuring personnel at Fort McCoy have everything they need to do their jobs."

The vetting process, which officials say begins before refugees arrive in the U.S., has been questioned by Republican lawmakers who believe, without evidence, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan could have resulted in errors in identifying refugees.

Democrats shared while none of the refugees at Fort McCoy have Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), they are still going through the immigration process to make sure they have proper documentation before they resettle across the county, with some staying in Wisconsin.

Officials with the State Department emphasized even though refugees did not secure SIVs, that doesn't mean they are not being properly vetted.

Other Democrats who visited Fort McCoy include state senators Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska), Jeff Smith (D-Brunswick) and state representatives Katrina Shankland (D-Stevens Point), Jodi Emerson (D-Eau Claire) and Samba Baldeh (D-Madison).

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